Inside the world of 'Murderabilia'
Updated On: Jul 11 2013 10:10:00 PM EDT
From sports jerseys to old TV show posters, owning some type of memorabilia is nothing unusual. Murderabilia, however, is a different story.
If you've never heard of it, it's collectibles related to infamous crimes and killers. A way for people to own a very dark piece of history. Eric Holler (pictured right with Channel 4's Nikki Kimbleton), one of the first and largest dealers of these items, lives right here in Jacksonville.
Diena Thompson became familiar with Murderabilia shortly after her daughter, Somer, was murdered on her way home from school. That was four years ago, but she remembers something police told her very clearly.
"People have come and put statues and stuff in the memorial for Somer and they've ended up disappearing," Thompson said. "I told the police about it and they told me not to be surprised if it ended up on eBay."
Thompson (pictured, below) says she could never bring herself to check and see if anything was for sale. But if you're wondering who would even buy something like that, Holler said you would be surprised.
"I started in 97, it's been over 15 years," Holler said. "When I first started, no one was doing this. I was one of the first people."
Holler sells anything and everything to do with some of the most infamous and vicious crimes and killers of our time. They can range in price from $30 to tens of thousands of dollars. On his website, serialkillersink.net, Holler sells artwork from infamous killers, pictures and letters.
"I have one signed by Richard Ramirez (pictured, right), the night stalker. It sells for $1,200," Holler said. "If you get hold of a Ted Bundy letter, that's thousands of dollars right there."
Holler has been befriending convicted, infamous men and women for years. He gets them to send him things. Lately, he's selling more of the Murderabilia than ever.
"This industry over the past couple years has blown up. The interest is huge," Holler said.
He said the reason is there's so much interest in real life crime.
"There's networks devoted to true crime and documentaries on murder," Holler said. "True crime is a money making business."
Whether you like it or hate it, what Holler is doing is legal. His career, however, does not come without controversy or hate mail.
"Nobody picks on the guys who write the books, nobody picks on the guys who produce the movies," Holler said. "I'm easy to pick on because I don't have a large corporation behind me. But I'm doing the same thing that they are. I'm making money from crime."
Holler's customers cover a large range of people and professions. He sells to attorneys, police officers, famous actors, musicians and more.
"A psychologist in Michigan is one of our biggest customers," Holler said. "Every time I get school shooter items he buys them up cause he studies young kids in school shootings."
Holler says the letters, even the ones that are full of rambling and hard to understand, hard to understand, can give officers a very unique perspective when they're investigating other suspects. Channel 4 asked crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson (pictured, right).
"It allows the investigators to analyze the letters and see exactly what's in the psyche of these individuals," Jefferson said. "If you've got a person convicted of a heinous crime and they're writing letters and expressing themselves, what they're doing is pouring out what's inside of them. This can aid the investigators in how to line up the questions for future suspects. Now they're on the inside of this person, the thought process."
While this is a positive way of looking at the keepsakes of killers, Holler is very used to the negative feedback. Still, he's very comfortable with how he makes his living. He admits he's made friendships with people like Manson, Ramirez and Dahmer. However, he says he does have rules and limits.
"In this whole true crime, Murderabilia collectible business, pedophiles don't sell," Holler said. "There's no interest in that. Someone killing a child is not anything I want to be a part of. When they go to prison, they get what they deserve."
Even though hearing that is a relief to Diena Thompson, Murderabilia is something she says she will never understand.
"These people who are selling these things, I'm sure they're not doing with intent to hurt anyone, but they don't realize they're profiting off of our nightmares, our misery, our agony," Thompson said. "That's just wrong."
It is against the law for convicted criminals to profit off their own crimes, that's why Holler is able to keep all of the money he makes from these items, even when killers send him items specifically to sell. eBay no longer allows Murderabilia to be sold on its site, and that's why most dealers have their own websites.
While Murderabilia is a controversial business, there are some victims who have benefited from certain sales. For example, Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber (sketch pictured above)," who's serving a life sentence for his infamous nearly 20-year bombing spree that killed three people and injured nearly two dozen others.
As ordered by a judge, nearly 60 items found in his Montana cabin were sold at auction, raising more than $200,000 [View video of items auctioned]. All that money went to the Kaczynski's victims and their families.
While his typewriter, his infamous glasses and his hoodie were big sellers, the didn't even come close to the biggest ticket item. A set of 20 personal journals that revealed Kaczynski's thoughts and feelings, his life in the wilderness, even descriptions of some of his crimes, went for nearly $41,000. Those journals could be useful to investigators to identify future violent offenders and stop them before they commit deadly crimes.
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